Bus Drivers in Unite and the GMB, across the North West, have today suspended their strike action after they received a revised pay offer of 11.1% or £15/hr. This was their initial pay claim. Through determined, solid and consistent strike action the company has backed down.
The revised offer will now be put to a formal ballot, and is likely to be accepted, although you could understand if there was a feeling of wanting to press for more given the ever-increasing rate of inflation. There may be some feeling that with rising prices, Arriva, like many other employers who have for years, delayed pay negotiations to force through low pay are beginning to see that tactic turn on them.
Rotten deal overwhelmingly rejected
After months of delay and nearly 4 weeks of all out action, Arriva made a 9.6% pay offer on Friday. Workers were balloted and 79% voted to reject on Tuesday (day 28 of the walkout). Workers were clear they would settle for no less than £15/hour. Less than 24 hours after this overwhelming rejection, the company had caved, and agreed to meet the union’s demands. This is a massive victory not just for the bus drivers, but for working class people across the country struggling through the cost of living crisis.
The bus drivers stood united. Not a single Arriva bus moved for the last weeks, and the unions stood strong. For many in the communities these strikes were a significant inconvenience. Yet the wider public support never wavered. The working class of Birkenhead, Bootle, Liverpool, Manchester and beyond were united in their support of the drivers’ claim for fair pay. This is representative of a general support for industrial action, in the face of a crushing cost of living crisis.
Socialist Alternative members were regular visitors to the picket lines at Laird St and Green Lane in particular, to show our support and solidarity. Trade unionists, socialists, community activists were also present in numbers on the picket lines. Despite Sir Keir Starmer’s order for Labour MPs to keep away from picket lines, there were a few notable exceptions in some areas.
There are many lessons that can be drawn from this dispute for all trade unionists and workers generally. For one, this victory shows how unions and workers in dispute must actively campaign and build solidarity across the whole movement and the community if we are going to win our demands. This can mean simply explaining the strike and why strikers need support. But it can also mean coordinated escalating action planned across unions and across branches.
Secondly and importantly it has to be noted that taking prolonged, rather than sporadic, action can be extremely effective, and it does not mean strikers lose public support.
But there is one final lesson that must be learnt: If we strike, we can win!